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Friday, 04 December, 2020

Taking a Bite out of Cookies

Date: 25 April, 2001

By: Chief

Imageost people, myself included, love cookies. We all have our favorites. Mine is chocolate. The more the merrier. However, some cookies are not tasty at all. Indeed, some cookies are quite harmful. While it is not the same as Adam taking a bite of the Apple — the forbidden fruit of biblical lore — certain kinds of cookies are worse. They are insidious. They are hidden. They steal. Lastly, you can't even eat them.

I'm talking about 'Internet' cookies. Cookies that are placed onto your computer hard drive when you access certain web sites. Other cookies are placed onto your hard drive when you install certain software — Real Audio is one of the worst offenders of this practice. Netscape/AOL has a similar setup. Most web based e-mail accounts require cookies be enabled in order to use the provider's e-mail service. Some cookies actually 'phone home to Mama'. In other words, if you were to make a credit card purchase via the Internet this 'cookie' that has been placed onto your computer then proceeds to follow and report back to its home what sites you visited, any purchases you made, etc. A variety of information is sent - including your name, e-mail address and the unique computer number which is assigned to your machine by Microsoft Windows when you install Windows on your computer.

Some folks may think 'what is the big deal, I have nothing to hide'. That, boys and girls, is not the point. Whether or not you have anything to hide is moot. It is nobody's business! If you wish to provide personal information to a company or another individual that is your decision and your decision alone.

It is called privacy. We each have a right to privacy. Check it out in the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of our Constitution. Further, several of the states have privacy laws. That is a good thing, I think. Yet these companies, and some individuals as well, think they have a need — a right — to know everything about you and me.

How wrong they are. In the state where I live a person or 'thing' which enters my home without my permission and then commits a crime — how does trespassing or invasion of privacy grab you — is guilty of — burglary. Are you starting to get an idea of what I am talking about? We don't need new laws to correct this cookie problem. Most certainly we have far too many laws that intrude upon our daily lives. But, we can use the 'system' which is already in place to counter these scallywags. These thieves of our privacy. We use existing law against them. It is that simple. Burglary is a felony in my state. I submit it be used against such outrageous companies such as Real Audio, Netscape/AOL and Logitech. It would be interesting to see what the outcome would be.

Additionally, there are tools which we internet surfers can use to combat these slime bag organizations. For one, a person can 'disable' cookies within their web browser. I am a firm believer in that. A site which requires cookies 'enabled' is not worth visiting. As such, a boycott could be mounted against intrusive companies. When their Internet 'hit counters' start dropping, going into a tailspin if you will, they might reevaluate their position on the use of cookies. Additionally, one could install a firewall. The best firewalls are absolutely free. Again, I am a firm believer in taking precautions. Further, a boycott of an intrusive companies products could be used against them. For instance, don't use Real Audio or Netscape/AOL. Can't stand Microsoft? Fine, use Mozilla or Opera for a browser. They are, without doubt, the two finest browsers on the market anyway. Use a different 'player' for audio and video files. I use XMMS for GNU/Linux (Tux rocks).

I fully admit that the above ideas take a lot of people and a lot of time. However, I submit, what have we to lose? If we citizens continue to do nothing, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the continuing encroachment and loss of our privacy. If, on the other hand, we decide to take a stand — just say no to Internet cookies — We the People will have taken our first step to regaining a piece of our liberty. The unfettered right to be "let alone."

It is time We surfers put cookies where they belong ... in the cookie jar, not on our computers.

Surf's up!

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